We’ve all heard of magnesium and commonly associate its deficiency with muscle cramping but have you ever stopped and wondered why this happens or what else this mineral is involved in?
Magnesium is abundantly found in the body and plays a role in many different systems. Its involvement with the muscular system is well known but it also interacts with other important minerals to ensure healthy functioning overall.
Here are a few processes magnesium is involved in:
- – Nerve function
- – Muscle function
- – Glucose control
- – Normal energy metabolism
- – Bone development
- – Normal brain and psychological function
Its main role in the above mentioned processes is mainly associated with its relationship to calcium and potassium. Magnesium and calcium levels behave in an opposite manner. When magnesium is low the amount of calcium in our cells rises which can affect muscle contraction and relaxation. This is why when we have low magnesium levels we may suffer from prolonged muscle spasm and cramping. This same mechanism can have an effect on the cardiovascular system as magnesium also helps to maintain normal function of smooth muscle (EG blood vessels) and cardiac muscle tissue (the muscles of the heart).
A healthy adult will have about 25 grams of magnesium in their body with up to 60% of it stored in the bones. Normal magnesium levels should range between 0.75 and 0.95 millimoles per litre. However, due to magnesium being predominately stored in the bones it is difficult to get a true assessment of a deficiency through a blood test so it has been suggested that clinical signs and symptoms and response to supplementation may be the best indicators of magnesium insufficiency.
Who is at risk of Magnesium deficiency?
It is estimated that at least 48% of men and 56% of women have low magnesium levels. Individuals who have a higher risk of magnesium insufficiency include:
- – Those over 65 years of age due to not achieving the recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium through their diet
- – Individuals with diabetes, hyperparathyroidism and hyperthyroidism
- – Those with renal disorders
- – Alcoholism
- – Individuals with malabsorption syndromes Eg Coeliac’s Disease
Those mentioned are above are known to have difficulty getting enough magnesium in their diet, are unable to absorb enough magnesium from their food or due to a particular disorder their kidneys are excreting too much magnesium.
While the above groups have been identified to be at risk of low or deficient magnesium levels factors that contribute to low magnesium must also be recognised.
Some common factors involved in magnesium insufficiency are:
- – Inadequate dietary intake
- – Strenuous exercise
- – Stress
- – Poor absorption due to ageing
- – High intake of salt, caffeine or alcohol
- – Long term use of some medications including proton pump inhibitors
- – Excessive menstruation
- – Excessive perspiration
Signs and symptoms of Magnesium insufficiency
As mentioned previously, testing for magnesium deficiency can be difficult to assess due to majority of it being stored in the bones. Magnesium serum concentration is the most commonly used test, but it is an unreliable measure of total body levels. Therefore identifying signs of deficiency is important. Some commons symptoms include:
- – Muscle cramps and spasms
- – Poor concentration and attention span
- – Increased irritability and excitability
- – Vertigo
- – Nausea
Food sources of magnesium
Magnesium is commonly found in green leafy vegetables and nuts. It is also found in foods containing dietary fibre. Here are some foods containing high levels of magnesium:
- – Almonds – Brown rice
- – Spinach – Plain yoghurt
- – Cashews – Kidney beans
- – Peanuts – Bananas
- -Black beans- Salmon
- – Avocado – Broccoli
So, there is a brief overview of the importance of magnesium to maintain a healthy system. If you think magnesium may help you, don’t hesitate to have a chat with us and we can advise you on whether or not magnesium is right for you. Here at The Osteopaths, we recommend Ultra Muscleze from the Biocueticals range for magnesium supplementation. It is a soluble powder that contains magnesium and B vitamins.
And as always, please consult your GP, pharmacist or naturopath when considering taking natural supplements or medications.